English Lesson 2.0

By Wiebke Fischer

Pho­to cred­it by FirmBee

For most stu­dents, expo­sure to the Eng­lish lan­guage is large­ly restrict­ed to the chalky class­room and – out­side the class­room – to watch­ing movies or series in Eng­lish. Yet there’s so much more to work with – just think of the dig­i­tal world and its poten­tial. Have you heard of the rather polit­i­cal “Pod Save Amer­i­ca” or “S‑Town” with its South­ern Goth­ic sto­ry? The list of pod­casts is sheer end­less. So why not jump on the pod­cast train and use it for didac­tic pur­pos­es? You won­der how? Alright, let me give you an idea:

Here is what you do in 4 easy steps.

Step 1: Think of a top­ic. Togeth­er with some of my fel­low stu­dents, for exam­ple, we cre­at­ed a pod­cast suit­able for busi­ness voca­tion­al schools. In order to enhance our (future) stu­dents’ inter­cul­tur­al com­pe­tence, we named our pod­cast Inter­cul­tur­al Cock­tail with an episode enti­tled Ger­man-Amer­i­can Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Step 2: In order to bring this episode to life, we researched the top­ic and talked to grad­u­ate Amer­i­can stu­dents on cam­pus about their per­cep­tions and views. Step 3: The out­come was a writ­ten tran­script includ­ing dif­fer­ent inter­cul­tur­al busi­ness sit­u­a­tions which we then turned into a nine-minute-long audio file – the suit­able length depends on the stu­dents’ com­pe­tence lev­el and their famil­iar­i­ty with the top­ic. Step 4: For an authen­tic pro­duc­tion, we were sup­port­ed by Ryan, an Amer­i­can stu­dent, and used Audac­i­ty, a hands-on, free audio soft­ware for the tech­ni­cal production.

The didac­tic ben­e­fits of the pod­cast are twofold: You can either let your stu­dents pro­duce their own pod­cast as we did. That way, you enhance learn­er auton­o­my. Or you let your stu­dents use a pod­cast episode already pro­duced. The lat­ter would make the imple­men­ta­tion of pre‑, while‑, and post-lis­ten­ing activ­i­ties nec­es­sary. Those, of course, can vary depend­ing on the top­ic and the length of an episode. In the giv­en exam­ple, we tried to acti­vate the stu­dents’ pri­or knowl­edge of the top­ic by ask­ing them about their expe­ri­ences with Amer­i­can culture.

Pho­to cred­it by Alexan­der Mils on Unsplash

For a while-lis­ten­ing activ­i­ty out­side the class­room, ask the stu­dents to pause the episode after each sit­u­a­tion and antic­i­pate Ryan’s reac­tion based on their knowl­edge from the pre-lis­ten­ing activ­i­ty. To be able to com­pare stu­dents’ thoughts with the answers by the native speak­er, stu­dents should take notes lat­er to be used in class­room dis­cus­sions. Keep­ing in mind that the over­all idea is to strength­en skills need­ed for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, use the out­ro of the pod­cast episode as a start­ing point. Stu­dents then com­ment and post ques­tions on the podcast’s imag­i­na­tive Face­book page. The student’s class­mates write an answer which may actu­al­ly require some research on the top­ic. This activ­i­ty could also be done oral­ly, depend­ing on which skill they focus on.

No mat­ter which path you take, your stu­dents will be moti­vat­ed. Give it a try!


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